October 23, 2007
Terror and the Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor (America's highest military honor) was awarded 124 times during World War I and 464 times during World War II. It was awarded 246 times during the Vietnam Conflict. Yesterday, President Bush awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously) to a veteran of the war in Afghanistan for the first time. It has been awarded only twice to veterans of the Iraq conflict.
What's wrong with this picture?
Well, either veterans of previous wars were a whole hell of a lot braver than soldiers today, or we have a problem. Personally, Abu Muqawama believes the military has built up a cult around the Medal of Honor such that every Medal of Honor recipient has to be an Alvin York or Audie Murphy -- men whose actions went beyond that of the "normal" Medal of Honor recipient. (Hell, they made Hollywood movies about both men.) But the nation's highest military honor should not be reserved for that small pantheon of super-heroes. The officer corps needs to fix this, because we have obviously we've been giving out the Medal of Honor too infrequently over the past six years.
Or ... we're just pussies. Unlike our grandfathers. Who, I'll have you know, were hard and ate nails for breakfast on their way to go fight the Japanese. With chopsticks. Because they couldn't afford bullets. (It was the Depression.) And did they complain? F*** no. We whine about not having enough body armor -- they cursed because some jerk put filters on their cigarettes.
Update: Charlie is intrigued by Abu Muqawama's comments on medal of honor winners (though she has always been told by her grandfather that he just went ahead and smoked the nails instead of eating them). One further piece of evidence that standards have somehow changed is the fact that since Vietnam medals of honor have only be awarded posthumously (2 in Somalia, 2 in Iraq, and now 1 in Afghanistan).
One could make an argument about lower overall troop levels, fewer troops deployed, and different modes of combat in the modern era. Charlie knows better than to go looking for logic in the medals and awards department, but something does seem off here.